Broken hearts build bridges

Most of the time, I avoid broken hearts. Who wants to be in pain? Not me. My survival instincts want me to flee far, far away from it. And often, for my own mental and emotional health, I do.

But this week it crept in and I simply could not run fast enough to escape. This week, I allowed my heart to break (again) over a situation occurring in my home country. I allowed my heart to crack open for the people seeking asylum who are incarcerated in detention.

For the children and the mothers and the fathers; the sisters and brothers. My sisters and brothers.

I signed a petition to release children from custody and thought, “But what about their parents?” Are we just repeating our dark history again, do we have another stolen generation in our midst? Surely that can’t be the best case scenario.

But I had no solutions for a situation which has become so politicized it makes me want to vomit. I feel like tearing my hair out and screaming that this is not a political issue, but a human one. Those people fleeing persecution, war and violence are human.

Not pawns in a political circus whose polarity prevents any real solutions.

I felt lost, afraid and powerless. Powerless. I think that may be the worst feeling. I wondered how powerless those people in detention must feel. Powerless probably doesn’t come close to describing it.

I’d been sharing a concept in my e-retreat called compassionate abiding, which I learned from the superstar Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron.

The practice is about giving space to uncomfortable feelings. Rather than running from them or distracting ourselves from them, it’s about allowing them the space they crave.

By breathing in and out, allowing the uncomfortable feeling, which was, in my case, powerlessness, I could be with it instead of allowing it to drive me into rage.

The next step of the practice is to realise that whatever we are feeling, there are other people on the planet feeling the same thing. By offering compassion to them, we acknowledge our shared humanness which eases our isolation.

The feeling of powerlessness started to fade as I felt connected to those people who felt it too. I realised that my compassion for them was not in vain. I wasn’t powerless, because compassion is the most powerful energy on the planet.

Every single positive act which has ever occurred on this earth has arisen from compassion. And I could only feel that power when I allowed my heart to break open.

Dali Lama

Then this morning I was reminded of the planned executions of two Australian citizens in Indonesia who were charged with drug trafficking ten years ago.

I have followed the story over the years and have always been heartbroken by it. Having made my fair share of poor decisions in my life, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing great transformation in the recovery community and I simply couldn’t shake my anger at a system which doesn’t advocate second chances.

That icky feeling, powerlessness, reared its head again. When left unattended, powerlessness turns into depression. Luckily I had already learned that when allowed to abide, it transforms into compassion.

So I allowed my heart to break open for these men who made a mistake and paid for it with their lives.

I allowed a place for them in my heart, because I felt that in doing so, I could honor them and the transformational journey they had lived, incarcerated on death row, by finding peace within them and serving their fellow inmates.

They actually transcended in ways that most people would never experience. By overcoming their physical circumstances, they arrived in a realm of calm acceptance, service and love. Ironic that so many people (including me) seem to want to get to that place and can’t find it through all our attachments.

Have everything stripped away from you and see what happens. What really matters.

I couldn’t let them die in vain, and so, I invited their experience to transform me. On facebook, one of my sweet friends posted about her sadness surrounding the event; an expectant mother for whom life has taken on a new meaning.

I wrote that we could honor the men by seeing them and by allowing their life and their experiences to bring more compassion into our hearts. By doing that, their life was not wasted. They brought more love into the world.

I find it rather odd that people will honor a historical figure who was politically persecuted and executed and yet not see that the same thing happens to other children of god every day.

‘What if Jesus was a drug smuggler?’ I thought to myself. ‘Or an asylum seeker?’

I felt a slither of truth emerge within me and that truth was compassion. And I took some comfort in my belief that the energy of compassion does change the world, one broken heart at a time, building bridges of love which will one day, connect us all.


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Broken hearts build bridges — 6 Comments

  1. I’ve been one who characteristically would turtle, hide away from and deny all those things I just hate to hear. Since our ashram visit I’ve taken more steps to be present and accept those feelings and, as you say, let them have their space. Compassion really is a big part of it, and if only others would have this same discovery I think the world would be a more harmonious place, differences and all.
    Emily recently posted..Impact and AdjustmentsMy Profile

  2. Beautiful words and quotes; I totally agree that both issues are heartbreaking. I know people who, for instance, ignore the news because they feel like it’s depressing and it brings them down, but I’ve always thought that it’s important to know what is going on in the world rather than just be blissfully ignorant.
    Amy recently posted..Reflections on Life after Two Years of TravelMy Profile

  3. Amazingly put. You know why your heart broke for all of these people? Because it was supposed to, in order to bring you to the place of compassion. Some people think that anger or sadness or really, really caring about something equals compassion: not true. Those emotions are not productive and do not get humanity anywhere. What they are, though, are bridges. Bridges to compassionate action, whatever form that takes. The reason humans feel such negative emotions about such sad things is that it’s our divinity trying to get us to the point of compassionate action. And so many of us run away from any kind of negative emotion, understandably, and in doing so miss the opportunity to have it change us for the better. xx

    I really loved the video you linked us to in the e-retreat by Thich Nhat Hanh on compassion. It was beautiful and timely.
    Karyn Jane recently posted..Vlog – RawTil4: Don’t Wait For Things To Be Perfect!My Profile